A GYNAECOLOGIST testified in the High Court in Windhoek on Friday that two of the women suing Government after being sterilised in State hospitals face a very poor prognosis for having their ability to have children restored.
The third woman, who is now 44 years old, is a good candidate for having her sterilisation surgically reversed, but because of her age the chances of her having another pregnancy are not good, Dr Matti Kimberg testified before Acting Judge President Elton Hoff.
Dr Kimberg testified as an expert witness on behalf of three women who are suing Government for N$1,2 million each based on claims that they were sterilised by State doctors without their informed consent for the procedure having been obtained.
Dr Kimberg examined all three plaintiffs. He told the court that because of the way the first two plaintiffs' Fallopian tubes were tied when they were sterilised both have a very poor chance of having the sterilisation successfully reversed.
The first plaintiff was 26 years old when she was sterilised at Oshakati in June 2005. She had two children, but one has died.
The second plaintiff was sterilised at the age of 33 at Katutura State Hospital in December 2007. She has three children.
The third plaintiff told the court last week that she was sterilised after she had given birth to her seventh child. One of her children has also died.
All three plaintiffs are HIV positive. They are claiming that their HIV status prompted the decision to sterilise them without proper consent having been obtained from them.
Government is defending the claims against it. The plaintiffs all gave their consent for the sterilisations, it is claiming in return.
The third plaintiff insisted last week that the meaning of the sterilisation consent form that she signed while she was already in labour at Katutura State Hospital in October 2005 was not properly explained to her.
She also told the court that she was not advised of the option of being sterilised earlier in her pregnancy - although her medical records indicate that she had been given just such advice.
The plaintiff, who is Oshiwambo-speaking, said she does not speak, read or write English.
This plaintiff's medical records also indicate that a doctor who saw her in March 2005, when she asked that her pregnancy be terminated because she was experiencing severe pain, advised her and her partner about methods of contraception that would prevent the spread of HIV from her to him. That doctor was Oshiwambo-speaking. The plaintiff also claimed insisted that this doctor did not speak to her in a language she could understand.
Dr Kimberg told the court that it is preferable that consent for sterilisation must be obtained early during a pregnancy, so that the patient involved has enough time to think about her decision.
The patient should be given time to consider the option of being sterilised and its alternatives, such as other methods of contraception, and to discuss this with her partner as well, he said.
A decision to opt for sterilisation is not one that should be taken under the duress of being in pain during childbirth, he said.
With regard to the third plaintiff, Dr Kimberg said he would also have advised her about the option of sterilisation, given her age and past medical problems she had experienced during her pregnancies. The choice, however, should remain hers, he stressed.
In some of Namibia's cultures enormous value is attached to a woman's ability to have children, Dr Kimberg said. With this in mind, even if a woman does not want to have more children, she wants to retain the ability to have more, if she might choose to do so at some point in the future, he said.
The trial is continuing today.